Monday, January 30, 2017

Nostalgia and Werner Herzog

'Nostalgie II', Oil, ashes and charcoal on burned panel

In the course of the posts that will follow I will go down the list of works, paintings, sculptures and others that I’ve made over the years and give what I can only call a commentary without the audio, although this could be interesting in its own way.  These commentaries will hopefully shed some light on the work as well as the inner workings of my own processes.  I’m not sure what is going to come out since I really want to approach this project as a free form, stream of consciousness, with little to no editing if possible.  This might be a good way to get to the core of my thinking on my work as much as it could be a tedium, a surplus thought.  I’m probably going to ham in a bunch of nonsense, but along the way I hope to also make a lot of sense out of a body of work that is somewhat disjointed but one which I believe shows that there is a thread running through all of it.  If I get all the way to the work that I was doing some 10-15 years ago, even I may be surprised by the way I probably think about it today versus how I thought about it back then.  

I believe that most people are always in some way only searching for themselves, none of us really know their true ‘selves,’ and I believe I’m not any different.  I’d like to quote Werner Herzog here who said that ‘only the shallow know themselves.’  He was referring to the question an interviewer posed that basically tried to distill the nature of Herzog himself and to pin down that there is such a person who is Herzog that makes particular films with a Herzogian feel to them.  Herzog himself countered with the above quote because he says that he’s constantly searching for who he is within himself.  After all these years, Herzog is still not sure that what he does is in some way unique or important, he knows he is good at what he does but what does that mean if one cannot prove to oneself that one’s place in the world is at best precarious.  

Without making a direct comparison of myself to Herzog, I believe I know what he’s talking about.  Art for me is a constant search, a seeking of something other, maybe of the self or of god.  It is not as simple as asking questions, what would be the purpose of that? Right now I couldn’t think of anything more tedious than asking purposless questions.  For me the work that I do is similar to staring into a fire or over an abyss.  These things are easy to ‘get’ but I do not ask the viewer to ‘get’ anything, rather to try and see and then apprehend what is there as much as what is not there.  This is my ambivalent approach and relationship to art, whenever I feel that I am close to ‘getting’ it myself I decide to change the approach.  In the struggle to stay relevant I also struggle to keep as obscure as I can, basically a contradiction.  It is the contradiction that I find most interesting however, it is what gives the work its impetus, its power and movement.  It doesn’t stay put because it can’t, as it vacillates between the opposing coordinates.  The Nostalgie paintings are this in their basic framing.  Even though they are dark, black paintings, foreboding, they are nonetheless intimate, soft and inviting.  They are paintings of fires we had in the Santa Barbara area over the last summer and fire has this contradicting element, it is at once a force of primal destruction, but on the other it is the purifying element that gives birth to the new in its wake and this is its main problematic core.  One cannot arrest fire in one place or position, it is terrifying and awe inspiring at the same time. And the above image is more or less the beginning of the series on nostalgia and fire.  More to follow. In the meanwhile you can check out my work at  I also randomly post on Instagram at @tompazderka.